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I’ve been out of the garden way too long and it shows. I was getting crabby. So right after our (way too busy) Christmas, I took a walk around the paths and found that the new year had already arrived in our Wake County woods.


There’s always a rogue Early Sensation Daffodil that blooms before the others. It promises hundreds more ahead.


This little pink Camellia is bridging the gap between the fall bloomers and the japonicas of spring. The tag is long lost. I’ll have to ask my friends at Camellia Forest Nursery in Chapel Hill for an ID.


Also from Cam Forest, Prunus Mume in bud.


Many years ago, I started the Wintersweet with seed ordered from England (and I’m still bragging–sorry). This is a favorite fragrant plant. It seeds a lot, if you want one.


Our Grandmothers grew another fragrant beauty with a fitting name, Sweet Breath of Spring.


And Grandmas loved Quince. This is Texas Scarlett in bud.


Bear’s foot Hellebore is one of my favorite green blooms. These will hang around for MONTHS–no fooling–which is one of the coolest things about winter flowers–they last.

So what’s blooming in your garden. Get out there, find out and let us know.


Blog-partner Melissa calls it “AWESOME!”

Meanwhile, my mom phones every few days to rave about the big, fragrant yellow blooms that open right before her eyes. 

I love them too.    Tina James Evening Primrose is the best thing in my yard right now.   But you’ll probably never find plants for sale. 

Instead, do what I do–buy seed and start them outdoors this summer.  Here’s a link to my favorite seed source,  the Fragrant Path.

Or you can ask me, Melissa, or my mom for some seeds or a plant. Fortunately, Tina James seeds all over the garden. 

It’s  a “biennial”.  That’s a plant that grows foliage one year and blooms the next, then passes on to the compost pile.  

 Biennials are a wonderful class of plants for the South where winters are relatively mild.  Foxgloves are a great example.  Honesty, aka  money plant, too.   But Oenothera glazioviana (Tina James Evening Primrose) is the flashiest biennial I know.  

Like mom says, it opens right before your eyes. (Think time-lapse photography with out the camera)

Garden writer  Tina James,  who discovered it,  was said to have Primrose Parties to watch the blossoms unfurl.  (It helps that this happens at cocktail time) 

I also like to watch the hummingbird moths pollinate the flowers.  And I like anything that blooms in the cool of the day when the weather is hot.  

A very cool plant–Tina James Evening Primrose.  Put it on your list. 

One caution:  All primroses are not created equal.  There is rampant pink one that will take over a garden or lawn.   Make sure you are getting “Tina James” unless you happen to want your lawn taken over.

Even though they are fighting with tree roots, these Nandinas always look good Photo: My Nandina thicket brightens up the woods and screens an ugly view, all while fighting mature tree roots.

Melissa’s Nandina post is right on target!  Nandina was the  very first shrub that I brought to my garden–and all these years later it’s probably the most useful shrub I have.   Here’s why I love Nandinas-

Tough as nails.  They will grow in sun, shade, bad soil, dry soil .   They will probably grow at the gates of hell (along with Iris–but the two might look like hell together).  I have dug up Nandinas of all sizes in all seasons–and they all survived.  If you have a tough spot, plant a Nandina there. 

They multiply making them the ultimate cheap plant–though  some people think they multiply too much.  The red berries are seeds, and they sprout all over.      I have seen Nandina on at least one list of invasive plants for the South, but at my house, it’s easy to control.   And I don’t see Nandina popping up in the woods, or choking trees  like some other rampant imports from  Asia–Hall’s honeysuckle and kudzu come to mind.   So I don’t feel bad about growing Nandina–but I am very careful about what I put in my yard.    Do pay attention to Melissa’s warning–Some plants don’t belong in your garden.  I am still digging up lirope…but like Melissa’s English Ivy,  that is another story. 

Nandinas make great screens–That is their real beauty in my garden.  Over the years, I have grouped  my Nandinas in two patches.    One screens  an ugly wood pile, the other  buffers my neighbor’s drive.  As seedlings pop up around the yard, I transplant them to my Nandina thickets , or give the extra plants  away.  

Two notes on  Nandina culture–

While they don’t need pruning, Nandinas can get top-heavy with lots of leggy stems.  I solve this problem by occasionally cutting some of the stems (maybe two or three on a big plant)  close to the ground.  When they sprout, you’ll have a  fuller look. 

And finally–Nandinas  look great in summer, fall and winter, but  can make for some bad color clashes in Spring.  Keep those bright red berries and bronze foliage  away from pink bloomers and you’ll have a plant that always looks good.

A long-time gardener and a passionate beginner share the dirt on their NC gardens-

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